Friday, March 11, 2011

(My) Man's (Last) Best Friend

Day 243

Growing up, we always had cats at our house, and my grandparents had cats, dogs, cows, pigs, horses, sheep and chickens on their farm. So, whenever anyone asked the, "Are you a cat person or a dog person?" question, I've always just said "I'm an animal person." And it's true.

Yes, we had cats at home (we weren't around enough to take care of a dog) and I loved them with everything I had. But I also couldn't wait to get out to G'ma and Papa's to take Susie (the world's best black Lab/Rottweiler mix) for a hike to uncover things like arrowheads left behind by the tribes that once inhabited the bluffs in that part of Iowa. That's right, I'm a country girl at heart, born and raised.

So this past summer, when I started showing symptoms of a severe allergy - random hives (including super sexy lip and eye swelling), wheezing and eventually full-on asthma - I had only a sneaking suspicion the cause of this might be our beloved Bella.

When I started dating Hubby more than five years ago, I immediately loved Bella. I realize I sound like every parent bragging how smart or adorable their child is (of course he/she is brilliant and the cutest thing I've ever seen!), but Bella really is the most lovable, sweet pooch I've ever had the pleasure to be around (except maybe Susie, of course). But every time I got too close for too long, I would get little red blotches on my arm or face. Nothing that wouldn't soon enough disappear when I stepped away. I insisted to Hubby that I was allergic to Bella, but he refused to believe me and instead thought I was harboring some resentment against the dog. In all fairness, I have been pretty vocal about the mess she creates on our floor after eating or drinking. There's no mistaking the effects of a bulldog's jowls! I might have some other points as well, but I digress...

Late last summer, however, the more severe allergic reactions started showing up. At first, doctors thought I was exhibiting the classic signs of acute urticaria resulting from seasonal allergies, and prescribed a Zyrtec in the morning, Benadryl at night and an inhaler (I most strongly disliked this) until the first freeze. Fast forward to December when I stopped my antihistamine regimen and the hives and wheezing reappeared. Off to the allergist!

They started by testing me for 30 things, 15 on each arm. One arm was seasonal, outdoor allergies. The other was devoted to indoor allergies, including dust mites and pets. Lo and behold, the ONE thing I immediately showed a reaction to? DOGS! (I might add it was the ONLY thing I reacted to, other than a very minor allergy to cats.) I quickly snapped a photo of the red, blotchy hive developing on my arm and shot it off to Hubby. "See? I told you so!"

Long story short, after reading up on the subject, it turns out I was always exhibiting signs of being allergic to Bella - which I knew, but Hubby refused to believe. But I wasn't around her all day so my body had time to recalibrate and escape enough while I was at work. I was rarely around Bella for more than a few hours at a time, other than weekends. That all changed when I quit my job last summer and began working from home. Bella was my constant companion, my shadow, following nearly every step I took. Upstairs, downstairs, to the elliptical in the basement. She was always right behind me. And when I sat at the computer, she was nuzzled up next to my feet, just rubbing her allergens nice and deep into the office rug. Sigh.

We still have Bella, and I still have allergies, but we've taken some steps to alleviate my symptoms. Hubby takes Bella to the office two or three days a week so I can get some breathing room - literally. And we've ordered a child gate to keep her downstairs at all times. No more sleeping next to my side of the bed, no more breathing in allergens all night long. It all seems to be helping. And, this whole situation has put an end to an always heated discussion of what our next dog will be, and when we'll get her. It's quite simple: I no longer face opposition when I tell Hubby Bella is our one and only. I mean, she couldn't ever be replaced anyway.

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